Since it was established in response to an executive order in 1979, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership has fostered the participation of women entrepreneurs in the economy, especially those who have been historically under-served or excluded. OWBO reaches out to women entrepreneurs through a number of programs that are coordinated through every SBA district office. OWBO’s programs provide business training and counseling, access to credit and capital, and marketing opportunities, including federal contracts.
In 1988 the SBA established the Women’s Business Center Program to better help women overcome continuing barriers to success. Today there are Women’s Business Centers in almost every state.
These centers, along with SBA district offices and other SBA resource partners at thousands of locations nationwide help women entrepreneurs start and grow successful businesses.
Each Women’s Business Center tailors its services to the needs of its individual community. Each provides training in finance, management, marketing, and the Internet, as well as offering access to all of the SBA’s financial and procurement assistance programs.
Women’s Business Centers serve a wide diversity of geographic areas, demographic populations, and economic environments. Many centers offer training and counseling in a number of languages and dialects, helping reach underserved markets with a variety of unique and innovative programs.
The return on investment of the program is high, as businesses that receive assistance from WBCs have significantly better survival rates than those that don’t receive similar support. These successful businesses directly affect the communities in which they are located by bolstering the local economies.
The SBA has a number of loan programs to help women access the credit and capital they need, some of which were designed in response to their needs. In fiscal year 2009, the SBA backed nearly 10,000 loans worth about $2 billion to women entrepreneurs, while SBA-licensed intermediaries made nearly 1,230 microloans worth over $13.8 million to businesses 51 percent or more women-owned. In FY 2009, 38 women-owned businesses received $26.8 million in investment capital through the SBA’s small business investment companies.
Under the Recovery Act, the SBA has leveraged $375 million in stimulus funds into more than $16 billion in lending to small businesses, almost 20 percent of which has gone to women-owned businesses.
The SBA has a number of initiatives to help women secure better access to procurement opportunities. These include online procurement training at www.sba.gov/women; training through its resource partners; matchmaking events, which target both the federal and private procurement arenas; and the 8(a) Business Development Program. The SBA also works with federal agencies to increase contracting opportunities and achieve the government’s 5 percent contracting goal for women-owned small businesses.
There are SBA district offices in every U.S. state and a number of its territories. Local SBA staff can help find other SBA resource partners at thousands of locations, too. To learn more about the SBA’s programs and services for women, contact an SBA district office. A listing can be found at www.sba.gov.